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HIDA Scan

Front view of liver showing gallbladder and bile duct.

A HIDA scan is an imaging test. It can be used to check for problems in the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. During the test, a small amount of radioactive substance (tracer) is injected into a vein in your arm or hand. Pictures are then taken to track the movement of the tracer. The test takes about 2 hours. In some cases, more pictures may need to be taken after a wait of 4 hours. You’ll be told as the test progresses how long your test may take.

Before the test

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions if required.

  • Tell your healthcare provider what medicines you’re taking. This includes vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medicines. You may be told to stop taking some or all of them in the days before the test.

  • Follow any other instructions you’re given to get ready for the test.

For your safety

Let the technologist know if you:

  • Are taking any medicines or have allergies to any medicines

  • Had recent X-rays or tests that used barium

  • Had recent surgery

  • Have other health problems, such as diabetes

  • Are pregnant or might be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

During the test

The test is done by a nuclear medicine or radiology technologist. It can be done in a hospital or test center:

  • You’ll lie on your back on a table. A special camera (also called a scanner) will be positioned above your belly (abdomen).

  • An IV (intravenous) needle or IV line is placed into a vein in your arm or hand. The tracer is then injected through the IV line.

  • Pictures are taken as the tracer follows the movement of bile through the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). Bile is a substance made by the liver that helps you digest fat.

  • You’ll need to lie still to help ensure that the pictures are not blurry.

  • Based on your healthcare provider's practices, you may be given a substance by mouth or injected thru a vein that causes the gallbladder to contract and release bile. Be sure to let the technologist know if you feel discomfort.

  • In some cases, pain medicine called morphine is injected through the IV line. Morphine helps move the tracer into the gallbladder.

  • If needed, more pictures will be taken after 4 hours.

After the test

  • The technologist will let you know when the test is completed.

  • If you were given a pain medicine such as morphine, have a family member or friend drive you home. The morphine can make you more tired than usual. Rest for as long as needed before you return to your normal routine.

  • The tracer will pass out of the body in your stool and urine within 24 hours. Drink plenty of fluids to help the tracer pass.

Follow-up

Your healthcare provider will go over test results with you when they are ready. This is likely within a few days of the test.

Risks and possible complications of a HIDA scan

These can include:

  • Problems at the IV site

  • Allergic reaction to the tracer or medicine used during the test

  • Radiation exposure from the tracer

Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Walton-Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2017
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.